Concerned about weight-gain during COVID? Feeling the effects of an inactive lifestyle?
Leading health charity, Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke, has expressed increasing concern about the effects of lockdown-life on the physical and mental health of the community. With overeating, stress, alcohol consumption and inactivity all on the rise, the pandemic is taking a serious toll on our health, and in particular, on our hearts.
A recent ‘NI Rebuilding Health and Social Care Framework’ published in June 2020 said; “There is emerging evidence that many key health behavioural risk factors, such as such as smoking, alcohol consumption and physical activity are likely to be worsening and becoming increasingly negative the longer the restrictions remain in place.” The framework also highlights that the wider impacts of COVID-19 are likely to increase health inequalities.
A MORI poll last May found that 48% percent of respondents said they have put on weight during lockdown (in just the first 6 weeks) with a significant portion (22%) gaining five to ten pounds. Worryingly, being overweight or obese puts you at significant risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and type 2 diabetes, all of which increase your risk of heart attacks and stroke.
February marks National Heart Month and, with it, the charity is strongly urging people to consider their cardiovascular health – its ‘Step by Step’ campaign encourages people to take 7 active steps towards a healthier, stronger heart:
- Check-up: Sign up for an Online Health Check through the NICHS website
- Physical Activity: Increase your steps
- Nutrition: Follow a healthy and balanced diet
- Alcohol: Cut back
- Smoking: Quit smoking
- Wellbeing: Look after your mental health & get enough sleep
- Know the signs of a Heart Attack
Fidelma Carter, Health Director at NICHS, said this campaign is needed now more than ever: “The fact that 1 in 4 adults and 1 in 5 children in NI are already obese and nearly half (45%) of the population were not getting enough getting enough exercise or eating healthily was already alarming, and now the current pandemic is making lifestyles worse. We encourage everyone to look after their hearts by taking small steps every day to maintain and improve their health”
Unsure about how healthy you really are? Step 1 is simple – check the status of your health with NICHS’s new online health check. Personalised health-checks have always been offered but, unable to continue this face-to-face service, they have recently been adapted and modified - the health checks have gone online! They are accessible to everyone and, to celebrate Heart Month, they will be completely free of charge this February and March.
The online health checks can no longer include a blood pressure or cholesterol reading, but what they do offer is a comprehensive “MOT” of your health; including assessing your family history and looking at how your lifestyle habits could be improved upon to keep your heart happy.
Hannah, one of NICHS’s Health & Wellbeing Officer’s says, “In a way we have more time now to focus on lifestyle, something that has become so important during COVID. We take the time to assess our clients’ risks and to listen to their concerns. We work together to delve into tailored techniques to improve elements of their lifestyle and provide practical advice on what they can do.”
The second step, recommended by NICHS, involves increasing our steps, something that has proven tricky during lockdown. However, since being active can reduce your risk of developing some heart and circulatory diseases by as much as 35%, it is more essential than ever. One step in the right direction is to sign up for NI Chest Heart and Stroke’s Red Dress Run, supported by MACE, taking place virtually on Sunday 21 February.
For more information on all 7 steps, and practical advice on improving your heart health, visit nichs.org.uk. And, to take the very first step towards a healthier heart, book a FREE online health check through the NICHS website today: NICHS Booking System (CODE: HEART). Spaces are limited so book early to avoid disappointment.
Step by step, working together we will help rebuild healthy local lives.
 Department of Health: Rebuilding Health and Social Services Strategic Framework, June 2020
 Policy Inst, Kings College London and IPSOS MORI: https://www.ipsos.com/sites/default/files/ct/news/documents/2020-05/kings_charts_28.5.20.pdf